Two Early-Career Cultural Critics of Color Awarded the Democracy Center’s Second Annual Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship

July 1, 2024

The Daniel K. Inouye National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (Democracy Center) at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) has awarded the second annual Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship to Nicole Leung and Adam
Wassilchalk, two early-career cultural critics of color who are making notable contributions to the theater, dance, and performance art world.

A rare funding opportunity for arts writers, the Yamamoto Fellowship launched in August 2023 to encourage diverse cultural and political perspectives that enrich and broaden arts writing as a practice and profession. This year’s focus is on theater, dance, and performance art, given the persisting setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic. Each fellow will receive a $5,000 award to
support their work over a six-month period.

Nicole Leung is a freelance dancer, performer, and writer based in New York City. Her choreography spans live performance and film and utilizes improvisation in both practice and performance. As a writer, she contributes to The Dance Enthusiast and hopes to inspire others to playfully explore and experience their own movement as a healing practice. A native of Seattle, Washington, she attended the International Ballet Academy where she received formative dance training from teachers affiliated with The Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Beijing Dance Academy, and New York City Ballet. She received a BFA in
Dance from The Juilliard School.

Adam Wassilchalk is a Harlem, New York-based arts and culture critic, stage manager, and production manager. He is passionate about Black, queer, and experimental performing arts, with a particular interest in dramatic storytelling that expresses the inner lives of Black folks onstage in unique and innovative ways. His reviews have been published in The New Haven Independent as part of the Independent Review Crew initiative, which aims to seed a network of writers in cities across the country to review in-person local cultural events. Originally from Austin, Texas, he received a BA in Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies from Yale

The Irene Yamamoto Arts Writers Fellowship is made possible through a gift from Sharon Mizota to honor her late aunt. This project is also supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in cultural critics of color cofounded by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

More information on the Yamamoto Fellowship is available at